Oral History Center Celebrates “Graduates”

Spring is a time of year when things begin anew. Flowers bud new petals, days have new length, and college graduates embark on new careers. It’s also a time when we at the Oral History Center celebrate an exciting phase of our narrators’ lives: a new life in our archive, where their story will live on in perpetuity. Not only can a narrator’s loved ones, friends, and colleagues access their interviews for years to come, students, researchers, and scholars can learn something about a time and a place, illuminating an aspect of history they might not have previously considered.

One way the UC Berkeley Oral History Center (OHC) likes to usher in this new phase of a narrator’s life is to have a “graduation” ceremony to honor their participation in the oral history process. Traditionally, we did this in person at the Morrison Library here on UC Berkeley’s campus, but like many things, we’ve had to adjust in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we like to list their names and the projects for which they were interviewed online and in our newsletter so that all those in the OHC’s community can celebrate their contributions with us from near and far. 

Please join us in expressing our appreciation for our latest cohort of narrators, spanning from fall 2021 to spring 2023. We are grateful to have their voices in our collection and their stories a new part of the historical record.

We also want to thank the OHC team—Paul Burnett, David Dunham, Roger Eardley-Pryor, Shanna Farrell, Todd Holmes, Jill Schlessinger, and Amanda Tewes—for their work in making these interviews come to fruition, along with the support from our student employees, who are a valuable part of our process: Max Afifi, Mollie Appel-Turner, Hue Bui, Mina Choi, William Cooke, Georgia Cutter, Nikki Do, Adam Hagen, Jordan Harris, Vivien Huerta-Guimont, Ashley Sangyou Kim, Ricky Noel, Deborah Qu, Mela Seyoum, Lauren Sheehan-Clark, Joe Sison, Erin Vinson, Shannon White, Serena Williams, and Timothy Yue.

Bravo, Oral History Center Class of 2023!

transcripts on shelves

Anchor Brewing Co.

Mark Carpenter

Gordon MacDermott

Fritz Maytag

Linda Rowe


Bay Area Women in Politics

Louise Renne

Ruth Rosen

J.J. Wilson

California Business

Fred Martin 


California Cannabis

Oliver Bates


California State Archives State Government Oral History Program

Wesley Chesbro

Fran Pavley

Lois Wolk 

Bill Lockyer 


Chicana/o Studies

Adele de la Torre 

Ignacio García 


East Bay Regional Park District

Ira Bletz

Ginny Fereira

Neil Havlik

Carol Johnson

Doug McConnell

Ruth Orta

Bethia Stone

Jeff Wilson

Mark Taylor

Mae Torlakson

Tom Torlakson

Will Travis

Nancy Wenninger


Environment/Natural Resources

Mary D. Nichols


Getty Research Institute’s African American Art History Initiative

Marion Epting

Maren Hassinger

Leslie King-Hammond

Thaddeus Mosley

Sylvia Snowden

William T. Williams

Vickie Wilson

Richard Wyatt


Getty Trust

Jerry Podany

Uta Barth

Tobey Moss

Katrin Henkel


Japanese American Intergenerational Narratives

Miko Charbonneau

Bruce Embrey

Hans Goto

Patrick Hayashi

Jean Hibino

Mitchell Higa

Roy Hirabayashi

Carolyn Iyoya Irving

Susan Kitazawa

Naomi Kubota Lee

Ron Kuramoto

Jennifer Mariko Neuwalder

Kimi Maru

Lori Matsumura

Alan Miyatake

Margret Mukai

Ruth Sasaki

Steven Shigeto Sindlinger

Masako Takahashi

Peggy Takahashi

Nancy Ukai

Hanako Wakatsuki-Chong

Rev. Michael Yoshii


Moore Foundation

Edward Penhoet

Kenneth Siebel

James C. Gaither


National Park Conservancy

Greg Moore


Sierra Club

Rhonda Anderson

Bruce Nilles

Verena Owen

Rita Harris


Resources and Planning

Anders Hauge


San Francisco Politics

Norman Yee 


University History

Doris Sloan

Carolyn Merchant 

Randy H. Katz

“Doris Sloan: Geologist, Educator, and Environmental Activist,” oral history release

New oral history: Doris Sloan

Video clip from Doris Sloan’s oral history on living in the Bay Area, on deep time, and on thinking like a geologist:

Doris Sloan is a geologist and paleontologist who earned her PhD at UC Berkeley and who taught, wrote, and engaged in environmental activism and education throughout the Bay Area, across California, and beyond. Sloan and I recorded nine hours of her then 92-year life history at her home in Berkeley, California, in May 2022. Our four recording sessions resulted in a 162-page oral history volume that includes an appendix of photographs with family as well as documents from her efforts in the early 1960s to stop PG&E’s construction of a nuclear power plant atop Bodega Head, under which runs the seismic San Andreas fault. Today, the coastal outcrop of Bodega Head is preserved as part of California’s scenic 17-mile-long Sonoma Coast State Park.

Black and white photograph of Doris Sloan
Doris Sloan in 1963 as the Sonoma County Coordinator of the Northern California Association
to Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor (NCAPBHH).

Sloan’s involvement in the “Battle for Bodega Head” helped inspire her later career as a geologist and teacher—a career she began by returning to graduate school as a mother in her early forties with children still at home. Sloan overcame numerous challenges, including gender discrimination in what were then male dominated departments and academic fields, to earn her MS in Geology in 1975 and her PhD in Paleontology in 1981. Her dissertation was an ecostratigraphic thesis on the sedimentary fossils of tiny creatures that once lived the San Francisco Bay. For many years, Sloan taught research-driven senior seminars in Environmental Science at UC Berkeley as well as geology courses for UC Extension. She lectured on travel excursions and field trips around California and across much of the Earth. Sloan became a board member with Save the Bay and a founding member of Citizens for East Shore Parks. In 2006, she published with UC Press the popular California natural history guide, Geology of the San Francisco Region. In her rich oral history, Sloan discussed all of the above, with details on her formative childhood experiences, her environmental and anti-nuclear activism, her experiences as a pathbreaking female geology graduate student at UC Berkeley, as well as her diverse teaching career.

Black and white photo of a Doris Sloan as a child standing in front of three adults, including her father who is who wearing wading boots.
Doris Sloan, age 6 (front center), on a salamander egg collecting trip with father, Viktor Hamburger (right), and two of his graduate students in St. Louis County, Missouri, circa 1936.

Doris Sloan was born in October 1930, in Freiburg, Germany. At age four, she and her family fled Germany after the Nazis removed her father, preeminent embryologist Viktor Hamburger, from the faculty at the University of Freiburg because of his Jewish ancestry. Her family settled in Missouri after her father secured a faculty appointment at Washington University in St. Louis. As a young girl, Sloan accompanied her father and his embryology students on field research trips to collect salamander eggs. She also shared fond memories of youthful summers working in Woods Hole on Cape Cod at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Sloan attended Bryn Mawr College from 1948 to 1951 and began attending Quaker meetings, which she continued throughout much of her life. Upon her mother’s deteriorating health, Sloan returned to St. Louis and graduated in 1952 from Washington University with a BA in Sociology. In that same year Sloan moved to San Francisco, California, with her then-husband, with whom she had four children. In 1957, she and her young family moved to Sonoma County, where she was neighbors with Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz. It was there in Sonoma County where, in the interests of protecting her children from nuclear radiation and preserving the beauty of the Sonoma Coast, that Sloan began her environmental activism that would, among other experiences, inspire her later career as a geologist and teacher.

Video clip from Doris Sloan’s oral history about her role in the “Battle of Bodega Head, Part 1:

Color image of Doris Sloan standing beside a wooden railing in front of a pond and green plants.
Doris Sloan at the now water-filled “Hole in the Head” on Bodega Head on Mother’s Day in 2022. Photograph by her daughter Christy Sloan.

Sloan detailed her engagements in the multi-year “Battle of Bodega Head” that, in 1964, successfully stopped PG&E’s construction of a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head. After being told by an official from California’s Office of Atomic Energy Development and Radiation Protection to let go of concerns about the forthcoming nuclear plant and “leave it to the experts,” Sloan enlisted in the activist organization called the Northern California Association to Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor (NCAPBHH)—a name others created and she described as “dreamt up on a Friday night after too many beers.” In her role as Sonoma County Coordinator of NCAPBHH, Sloan organized an eclectic mix of anti-nuclear citizen activists that included communist chicken farmers, libertarian land owners, conservative cattle ranchers, Bodega fisherman, UC Berkeley professors, Sierra Club members, jazz musicians and songwriters, and an internationally recognized geophysicist and geologist named Pierre Saint-Amand. Fortuitously, on a rainy and wind-swept day, Sloan accompanied Saint-Amand on a clandestine and consequential visit to the “Hole in the Head,” the site on Bodega Head where PG&E had already drilled a deep pit into granite rock to place its nuclear reactor. It was on that visit, while looking into that hole, that Saint-Amand and Sloan discovered evidence of the San Andreas fault running directly through the reactor’s containment site, a discovery that eventually halted further nuclear construction there.

Video clip from Doris Sloan’s oral history about her role in the “Battle of Bodega Head, Part 2:

Black and white image of Doris Sloan driving a station wagon full of balloons.
Doris Sloan driving with her children and many helium-filled balloons to a NCAPBHH event at Bodega Head on Memorial Day, 1963. (Original film negative slightly damaged.)

As Sloan recalled about their activist victory in the early 1960s, “to have a group of citizens win out over a major institution was really pretty unique. … Bodega was a very important story at the very beginning of a huge cultural shift for not only environmental matters on nuclear energy, but in so many other ways, too. Basically, citizen involvement at every level, from students to housewives. And to be a part of that, I look back on that and think, wow, how could anybody have been so lucky in so many ways?” The story of this citizen-led anti-nuclear activism has been told elsewhere, including in Oral History Center interviews with David Pesonen and Joel Hedgpeth, as well as by nuclear historians J. Samuel Walker and UC Berkeley alumnus Thomas Wellock. Sloan’s storytelling on her personal role in the “Battle of Bodega Head”—like launching over a thousand helium-filled balloons from Bodega Head to the accompaniment of live jazz playing “Blues Over Bodega”—adds both flourish and important details to the eventual successes of NCAPBHH.

Sloan’s involvement at Bodega Head played a crucial role in launching the next phase of her life as a geologist and teacher. After moving with her children to Berkeley in 1963, Sloan worked for the Friends Committee on Legislation, a Quaker lobbying group. Yet, by the early 1970s, Sloan’s long-standing fascination of nature, a desire to experience more of it, and her memory of discovering fault seams on Bodega Head led her to take UC Extension courses on geology taught high up in the Sierra Nevada’s Emigrant Wilderness by a remarkable UC Berkeley professor named Clyde Wahrhaftig. Wahrhaftig eventually became a significant mentor and friend to Sloan on her academic journey, as were UC Berkeley geologists Garniss Curtis and William B.N. (Bill) Berry. In her oral history, Sloan shares many joys from her field research and academic experiences at Berkeley, including mapping rock formations in California’s Mazourka Canyon, communing with ancient bristlecone pines in the White Mountains, learning about limestone deposition in Florida, a fascinating question about an imaginary dinosaur civilization from Walter Alvarez during her PhD oral examination, and her own work deciphering the sedimentary mysteries of fossils from mud under the San Francisco Bay. Sloan also shared some of the challenges she faced in the late 1970s as one of the few women in Berkeley’s geology and paleontology departments that, by her account, then included more than a few male chauvinistic dinosaurs.

Video clip from Doris Sloan’s oral history about Clyde Wahrhaftig, a UC Berkeley geologist, mentor, and friend:

Color image of Doris Sloan talking to adults who surround her.
Doris Sloan lecturing during a University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) field trip to the Marin Headlands in 2010. Photograph by John Karachewski.

Sloan’s oral history also explores her ensuing years as a teacher, travel guide, author, and environmental activist. Sloan discussed several senior research seminars in Environmental Studies that she taught at UC Berkeley, some records of which are preserved in UC Berkeley’s Library including East Bay Parklands: Planning and Management (1978), Seismic Safety in Berkeley (1979), San Pablo Bay: An Environmental Perspective (1980), and Hazardous Substances: A Community Perspective (1984). Sloan recorded stories and samples from lectures she delivered in her UC Extension geology courses and in her field classes for numerous organizations, including the Oakland Museum, Sierra Club, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, and the Yosemite Association. And she shared some of her travel experiences as a guide for Cal Alumni groups on journeys all across the Earth, from the Himalayas to Central Asia, and from South America to Scandinavia. Sloan also spoke about her local environmental activism as a board member of Save The Bay, as a founding member of Citizens for East Shore Parks, and on her friendship with Save The Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin, including efforts to secure what is now named as McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

Doris Sloan’s enlightening oral history records marvelous stories from the first ninety-two years of her remarkable life—from fleeing Nazi Germany to summers in Woods Hole; from raising children in northern California to stopping construction of a nuclear power plant on the San Andreas fault; from graduate school in her forties at UC Berkeley to lecturing across California and much of the world. I am honored to have become one of Doris’s friends, and I’m lucky for the opportunity to become one of her students. Now, with the publication of Doris Sloan’s oral history, you also have the chance to learn from her deep wisdom and experience.

Doris Sloan, “Doris Sloan: Geologist, Educator, and Environmental Activist” conducted by Roger Eardley-Pryor in 2022, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2023.

Video clip from Doris Sloan’s oral history about the Bay Area’s complicated geology:


The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Vincent H. Resh: Water, Insects, and Friendships, oral history release

New oral history: Vincent H. Resh

Vince Resh standing before a lake with mountains in the background
Vincent H. Resh in China, circa 2009.

Vincent H. Resh is a world-renowned Professor of Aquatic Ecology and Entomology and an award-winning teacher at UC Berkeley whose decades of humanitarian work, research, and leadership in the Onchocerciasis Control Programme helped protect tens of millions of people from the scourge of river blindness in sub-Saharan West Africa. Resh and I recorded over twenty-eight hours of his oral history over Zoom in the first months of 2021. His fascinating, world traveling, and enlightening oral history produced a transcript over 700 pages long, including a bibliography of his publications with over 400 entries, as well as an appendix of photographs with family, friends, and colleagues.

To me, Vince Resh embodies ubuntu, a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity” or “the quality of being human” that functions more extensively as “humanity towards others.” Ubuntu encapsulates ideas of community and interconnection with human kindness and mutual caring. It offers an African way of seeing self-identity formed in mutual relation to one another that sometimes is explained as “I am because we are.” The ubuntu theology of Archbishop Desmond Tutu popularized the concept, especially in the 1990s when he chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission during their turbulent transition to democratic majority rule. Desmond Tutu described ubuntu as something that “refers to gentleness, to compassion, to hospitality, to openness to others, to vulnerability, to be available to others and to know that you are bound up with them in the bundle of life.” Coincidentally, Vince Resh began his own life-changing and life-giving work in West Africa around that same time.

Vince Resh smiling and standing between his father and mother
Vince Resh with his parents after receiving UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, 1995.

I associate Vince Resh with ubuntu for several reasons. Certainly for his decades of self-sacrificing humanitarian and ecological work in West Africa and elsewhere, but perhaps foremost for his genuine love of people. Resh has an infectious joie de vivre that shines brightest while sharing his world-spanning adventures with beloved family, friends, and fellow travelers. His explorations as an entomologist and freshwater scientist took him across the planet to examine nature’s deep and delicate interconnections. On those adventures, Resh created community everywhere he went, forging new friendships or fortifying old ones. His teaching and research provided a means to deepen bonds with people he loved most, friends and science collaborators alike, and often in the service of others. As Resh explored ways that water enables ecological interconnections, he deepened his own human relations, grew into his best self, and lifted up others in the process.

Two people in thick coats stand on a beach with thousands of penguins and mountains in the distance
Cheryl Resh and Vince Resh co-leading a Cal Discoveries trip along with over 500,000 penguins on South Georgia Island, Antarctica, 2021.

Vincent Resh was born September 1945, in Greenwich Village, New York City, and grew up in Westchester County, just north of the Bronx. He earned a B.S. from Georgetown University in 1967, a M.S. from Niagara University in 1969, and his Ph.D. in 1973 in the Water Resources Laboratory at the University of Louisville. His research examined the evolutionary ecology of aquatic insects, and he developed approaches for the biological monitoring of water quality and the control of water-borne disease vectors. Resh was an assistant professor at Ball State University from 1973 to 1975. He joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1975, mentored scores of graduate students, and taught over 20,000 Berkeley undergraduates from 1988 to 2011 in his General Biology course. From 1996 to 2001, Resh was Director of the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Biological Research Station on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia. From 1995 to 2009, he served on the Expert Advisory Committee and chaired the Ecological Group in the World Bank and World Health Organization’s Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Control Programme in West Africa. From 2002 to 2012, he advised the Mekong River Commission on the effects of large Chinese dams by conducting studies throughout Southeast Asia. He was involved in many international aid projects, taught courses at universities throughout the world, lectured across all seven continents, and consulted on numerous science advisory boards and projects. Upon retiring in 2015, Resh received the Berkeley Citation, a high honor for those whose contributions to UC Berkeley go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standards of excellence in their fields. His son Jon and stepson Jeff were born in 1970. He is married to Cheryl Resh, a former Vice Chancellor and Director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at UC Berkeley who also earned the Berkeley Citation upon her retirement.

Several smiling or laughing people lift Vince Resh entirely off the ground and horizontally
Many of Vince Resh’s PhD students demonstrate how they “carried him” in research at a day-long symposium on research in Resh’s laboratory at the meeting of the Society of Freshwater Science, 2016.

Vincent Resh’s oral history recounts his rich personal life and his prolific academic and humanitarian career. The details of Resh’s education and academic career—especially his decades of ecological monitoring and teaching for international aid projects all around the world—highlights various ways that entomological science can be used to improve the human condition, while also creating historic records of human impacts on the natural world. Resh’s oral history also reveals how social connections play a fundamental role in the scientific process of creating new knowledge. Resh regularly developed deep friendships with his many academic collaborators around the planet. He shares numerous stories from his personal relationships with his academic mentors, as well as his own legions of graduate and undergraduate students during his forty years of teaching at UC Berkeley. Resh also taught courses all over the world on the process of scientific writing and publication, much of it drawn from his experiences as a prolific author and an academic editor. From 1976 to 1998, Resh was editor of the leading academic journal Annual Review of Entomology, and he co-edited the award-winning Encyclopedia of Insects in 2003, which was awarded the “Most Outstanding Single-Volume Reference in Science” by the Association of American Publishers and “Best of Reference” by the New York Public Library and Library Journal.

An adult holding the end of a long stick walks behind a small child who holds the front of the long stick
The iconic image of onchocerciasis or river blindness: a blind adult being led by a small child with a stick, here in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, 1995.

Resh’s oral history also provides details from his biomonitoring research and international service projects throughout Europe, India, Russia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Central America, and North America. Resh discussed extensively his two decades of biological monitoring and decision-making as chair of the Ecological Control Group and member of the Expert Advisory Committee for the OCP, the World Health Organization’s Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Control Programme in West Africa. The WHO and World Bank’s summary statistics of success for the OCP are astounding. Along with other program leaders, Resh’s decades of work helped protect 40 million of the poorest people on Earth from river blindness, including nearly 25 million children born in the area since the program’s start who are now free from risk of river blindness. Their work prevented an estimated 600,000 new cases of blindness across the eleven participating nations in West Africa, and some 1.5 million people who were once infected no longer experience symptoms. As a result, the OCP opened up 25 million hectares of arable land, which is enough to feed an additional 17 million people per year. Perhaps even more astounding, in order to achieve these successes, the Ecological Control Group that Resh oversaw sprayed carefully controlled pesticides on 30,000 miles of rivers over a geographic area covering over 476,000 square miles across eleven different nations in West Africa. This massive spraying was conducted nearly every week for 10-12 months each year for about 20 years, including while some of the West Africa nations were at war with each other! Resh’s participation in the OCP, or River Blindness Programme, had a profound effect on his life, his teaching, and his health—all of which he described throughout his detailed and moving oral history.

Vince Resh in wading boots stands before a river and forest
Vince Resh working in the Onchocerciasis Control Programme on Niger River near Segou, Mali, 1998.

For me, Vince Resh embodies ubuntu because his life journey and the choices he made throughout his career as a teacher and as a freshwater scientist continually fostered an ethic of mutual caring and community enrichment. Theologian Michael Battle, who was ordained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once described a person with ubuntu as open and available to others, affirming of others, not threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, and is elevated when others are lifted up. I had the pleasure of learning about Vince Resh’s many years of incredible service to his many communities—of scholars and learners at Berkeley, of international scientists, of fellow international aid workers in humanitarian projects around the world, and of his friends and neighbors in California’s Bay Area. And now, with the publication of his extensive oral history, you too have the opportunity to learn from and revel in Vincent H. Resh’s adventures of living and sharing ubuntu.

Vincent H. Resh, “Vincent H. Resh: Water, Insects, and Friendships” conducted by Roger Eardley-Pryor in 2021, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2023.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Oral History Center Releases Documentary on Famed Yale Social Scientist James C. Scott

In A Field All His Own: The Life and Career of James C. Scott

 “James C. Scott is regarded by many as one of the most influential thinkers of our time.” 

The Oral History Center at UC Berkeley is proud to release, In A Field All His Own: The Life and Career of James C. Scott, a documentary that offers an unprecedented look at the famed Yale political scientist. Created and produced by UC Berkeley Oral History Center (OHC) historian Todd Holmes, the film draws from nearly thirty hours of oral history interviews with Scott and affiliated scholars at Yale and UC Berkeley to trace the intellectual journey of the award-winning social scientist from his childhood in New Jersey through each of the ground-breaking works he produced throughout his accomplished career. Overall, the film presents an intellectual biography of one of the world’s preeminent academics, a feature that will serve as a treasured resource for students and scholars around the globe.

Graphic of James C. Scott and his books

While intellectual biographies may not be a typical genre, Scott is far from a typical academic. Over the last fifty years, few scholars have achieved such prominence within the American academy as James C. Scott. The Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, with appointments in anthropology and the school of forestry and environmental studies, he is regarded by many as one of the most influential thinkers of our time. Throughout his career, his scholarship became a series of major interventions that impacted dozens of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. From the strategic rhythms of peasant life to notions of resistance and the functioning of the modern state, his work continually shaped and reshaped research agendas and discourses in the academy. By his retirement in 2022, Scott stood as one the most widely read social scientists in the world – an influence and distinction that placed him, as the film title suggests, “in a field all his own.”

The idea for the documentary developed out of the Yale Agrarian Studies Oral History Project, which Holmes conducted between 2018 and 2020. The focus of that project was to document the career of James C. Scott, as well as the thirty-year history of the renowned Yale Agrarian Studies Program he founded. Those oral history interviews, which the OHC released in 2021, served as the basis for the film. Holmes had worked for both Scott and the Agrarian Studies Program during his graduate studies at Yale. His motivation for both the project and documentary was to capture Scott’s story—in his own words—for future generations. As Holmes recalls, “I had the privilege of meeting and working with Jim Scott before ever reading Jim Scott, a unique vantage point that allowed me to develop a deep appreciation for the brilliant scholar behind the books—his limitless curiosity, his wit and humor, and the welcoming nature of his intellect. I wanted to capture these qualities in telling his story. His books will be read for generations to come; it was my hope that this film could serve as a companion and allow students and scholars to get to know James C. Scott and the inspiration behind his work.” 

The film was made possible through the generous support of Yale University’s Program in Agrarian Studies, InterAsia Initiative, and Council on Southeast Asia Studies. It was produced by Todd Holmes in association with the UC Berkeley Oral History Center and Teidi Productions, a digital creations label he operates with his partner Heidi Holmes. The film is available to the public via YouTube.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Cheryl Resh: A Life in Student Services and a Federal Direct Loan Program Advocate, oral history release

New oral history: Cheryl Resh

Cheryl Resh in San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden
Cheryl Resh in San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden, 2013.

Cheryl Resh’s oral history paints an intimate portrait of family, of love, of world travel, and of her nearly four-decade career in university administration—from Resh’s first job in the early 1970s as a computer programmer at a community college in northern Illinois, to her eventually becoming Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at UC Berkeley where she implemented new computerized financial-aid delivery systems and expanded student aid availability for low income and first-generation students. Resh also served on the Executive Council of the National Direct Student Loan Coalition from 2003 through 2011 to advocate in Washington DC for increased student aid and national expansion of the Direct Loan Program. The nation-wide transition to Direct Loans was enacted during the Obama administration in 2010, adding billions of dollars to the federal Pell Grant Program while also eliminating excessive fees for students and their families. Upon her retirement, Resh earned the Berkeley Citation, a high honor reserved for those whose contributions to UC Berkeley go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standards of excellence in their fields.

Cheryl and Vince Resh adorned in flowers
Cheryl and Vince Resh enjoy a special wedding reception at the Gump Field Station on Moorea in French Polynesia, 1994.

Cheryl Resh and I recorded her oral history over Zoom from January to late March 2021. Our eighteen hours of recordings produced Resh’s reflective transcript of nearly 470 pages, including an appendix of photographs with family and friends and some of her world-spanning travels. In addition to discussing details from her outstanding service to the UC Berkeley community, Resh shared tales of her parents’ lives, her own memories of childhood, her experiences of becoming a mother in 1970 and eventually a grandmother, as well as sharing the tragedy of her son’s sudden death in 2020 just a few months before recording her oral history. Resh also discussed her deep involvement in competitive horse jumping, her ownership of two horses, and her tangential connections to horse-trading activities she later learned were linked to Chicagoland organized crime. And of course, Resh shared her deep love and many adventures with her husband, Vincent H. Resh, a Professor of Aquatic Ecology and Entomology at UC Berkeley with whom she has visited every continent on Earth, including several decades of visiting the island of Moorea in French Polynesia as well as their travels on rivers and railroads across Eurasia and Africa.

Cheryl Resh’s oral history also offers unprecedented detail on the operations, computerization, and evolution from 1978 through 2011 of UC Berkeley’s student services. Her career spanned Berkeley’s transition from hand-written student records that were then transferred to key-punched cards and inserted into a mainframe Tandem computer in the late 1970s, to the development and implementation of bespoke computerized financial aid delivery systems and web-based student services systems that allowed real-time access and updating to individual student information. By the time she retired as Vice Chancellor and Director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at UC Berkeley, Resh managed seventy staff members in eleven units that were responsible for the programming, processing, and delivery of $250,000,000 of student financial aid that came from 700 federal, state, institutional, and other scholarship funds that were delivered in aid packages uniquely individualized for over 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

Cheryl Resh with UC Berkeley Chancellor Michael Heyman
Cheryl Resh with UC Berkeley Chancellor Michael Heyman when she received the United Way Outstanding Volunteer Award, 1986.

Receiving the Berkeley Citation in 2011 surprised Resh, but not her friends and colleagues, many of whom wrote letters celebrating her contributions to UC Berkeley and to students across the nation. Harry Le Grande, a Vice Chancellor at UC Berkeley’s Division of Student Affairs, reported that “Dr. Cheryl Haigh Resh has dramatically improved student aid service in an environment of rapidly escalating costs and shrinking operational resources to provide services.” Kate Jeffery, the Director of Student Financial Support in the University of California Office of the President, praised Resh for her “rare combination of technical ‘systems’ expertise together with a keen grasp of the policy and student equity implications of each feature and choice.” Jeffery noted how “Cheryl has always been particularly compassionate on a personal level with students for whom the challenge of coming to UC Berkeley was possibly the hardest.” And Roberta Johnson, the Director of Financial Aid at Iowa State University and a fellow past chair of the National Direct Student Loan Coalition, shared how Resh’s leadership on their national executive committee guided “a movement that has changed financial aid for students for the better and hopefully forever!”

Cheryl Resh and Jeff Haigh standing next to a horse
Cheryl Resh and her son Jeff Haigh with her horse Lulu Bay in Roscoe, Illinois, 1973.

Throughout her oral history, Cheryl Resh wove together stories about her family, her personal life, and her professional life. Resh was born in September 1947, in Dubuque, Iowa, as the eldest of six siblings to their father, a Lutheran minister who spent his entire life not knowing that he was actually adopted from an orphanage by his own birth mother. In the late 1960s, Resh attended Northern Illinois University, got married, and followed her recently drafted husband to the Panama Canal Zone, where she spent a transformative year amid Panama’s military coups. In 1970, Resh’s son Jeffrey Haigh was born, and that same year, she earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Northern Illinois University. In 1972, Resh began her career in university administration as a computer programmer and soon became Assistant Director of Admissions and Records at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. In 1978, upon earning her M.S. in Higher Education Administration from the School of Business Management at Northern Illinois University, Resh bravely moved with her son from the Midwest to California as a single mother to begin work as an administrative analyst in the Office of Admissions and Records at UC Berkeley. She soon became Associate Director of Records, helped convert Berkeley from quarters to semesters, and at one point was even burned in effigy on the steps of Sproul Hall during a staff union protest over her efforts to automate the Records Office. By 1985, she and her colleagues successfully ended the era of hand-written student records by automating all major processes in Berkeley’s Admissions and Records Office. In 1986, Resh began work in Berkeley’s Financial Aid and Scholarships Office where she worked for the next twenty-five years.

From her Financial Aid office in Sproul Hall, Resh had a front-row seat on historic UC Berkeley activities, from student demonstrations against South African apartheid in the mid-1980s, to the campus controversy in the 1990s over declining Asian American admissions that re-shuffled campus policies as well as the careers of several leaders in university administration. In 1991, Resh earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from UC Berkeley, with emphasis in Finance, Economics, and Operations Research. At the Financial Aid Office, she helped implement computer system upgrades to the SAMS (Student Aid Management System) software from Sigma Systems, and from 2007-2010, she managed the new ProSAM computer system implementation to greatly enhance Berkeley’s financial aid delivery system and its web-based student service systems.

Seven women in jackets standing in front of Stonehenge
Cheryl Resh (center, red jacket) traveling with National Direct Student Loan Coalition members to Stonehenge, England, 2017.

Resh remains rightfully proud of her many years working to implement Federal Direct Loans for students, first at UC Berkeley, and then for all students across the nation. She implemented the Direct Loan program at UC Berkeley in 1995, which greatly improved the delivery of over $100 million per year in financial aid along with long-term savings on the total cost of their loans, all while enabling enormous administrative savings for the campus. Resh also shared stories of serving from 2003 through 2011 on the Executive Council of the National Direct Student Loan Coalition. Through the National Direct Student Loan Coalition, Resh and her fellow Financial Aid Directors from universities across the nation successfully lobbied US Congressmembers to protect and expand the Direct Loan Program. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 then mandated that all federal student loans be Direct Loans, which also increased student grant aid for needy American students by over $60 billion while saving significant taxpayer dollars over time.

Over Cheryl Resh’s thirty-three year career at UC Berkeley, she substantially enhanced student aid services while reducing costs, and she did this work while maintaining Berkeley’s commitment to supporting students from all economic backgrounds, especially students from the lowest income groups. Her dedication to equity of opportunity included her development of the Berkeley Cares program, which provided needed financial aid outreach and support to newly admitted low-income students, many of whom were first generation college students.

Cheryl Resh defied norms to achieve success both with and for others, all while carving a unique and adventurous path through life. I hope you enjoy reading Cheryl Resh’s oral history as much as I enjoyed working on it with her.

Cheryl Resh, “Cheryl Resh: A Life in Student Services and a Federal Direct Loan Program Advocate” conducted by Roger Eardley-Pryor in 2021, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2023.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Saving the Spoken Word: Audio Recording Devices in Oral History

By Serena Ingalls

Seventy-five years ago, in April 1948, Ampex began to sell the first audio tape recorder commercially to the public, the Ampex Model 200. This product, a rather large and bulky unit, was first marketed towards local and regional radio broadcasters and promised to be well worth the cost due to its utility. As time went on, audio recording technology only became less expensive, smaller, and more widely available, notably with the creation of the cassette tape by Philips. The invention of audio tape recorders made a huge mark on the world, and it impacted the daily lives of many, particularly those who spent much of their time interviewing and taking notes. In the archive of the UC Berkeley Oral History Center, there are many casual mentions of tape recorders that reveal the importance of these devices, and how people thought about and experienced the recording of interviews. 

A hand turns a knob on the tape recorder. The text reads: "Presenting the new Ampex (True-to-Life Fidelity) Magnetic Tape Recorder. The great new unit that put the Crosby show on air."
Original 1948 ad for the Ampex 200 tape recorder. Image: Museum of Magnetic Audio Recording.

Sports journalist and UC Berkeley alum Glenn Dickey began his career before tape recorders were generally used in the field, so he became very skilled at taking shorthand notes. His ability to take notes and remember conversations verbatim was so remarkable that others doubted that he didn’t use a tape recorder. In his oral history, Dickey talks about tape recorders and reflects on a personal experience. “One time when Garry St. Jean was an assistant coach for Don Nelson, he had a bet with Don Nelson that I have a tape recorder hidden,” explained Dickey. “Because he’d be there when I was talking to Nelson, and he knew that what I was writing in the column was what Nelson said—he says, ‘He can’t remember all that.’”

“It is easy to say now that I can narrate the story of my life on a tape recorder before writing these memoirs down, but for millennia it was impossible and everything hinged upon the spoken word, and all traditions and all the knowledge gradually accumulated by humanity depended upon this knowledge.” — Alexander Paul Albov

Others took full advantage of the tape recorder as a memory aid. Jo DeJean, the personal assistant to Gary Rogers at the Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Company, was one such person. She recalls in her oral history that “on my ride home I would talk into a tape recorder about things that I needed to do. We didn’t have cell phones back then. Because I had all these things swimming around in my head, so I needed to record them. So that’s what I did.” This strategy is now employed by many through the means of “voice memo” features on smartphones. 

George Waters
George Waters. Photo: Pacific Horticulture.

When tape recorders became inexpensive and easily accessible, they were used consistently by interviewers. Tape recorders were incredibly useful tools for longer interviews. Sometimes during the oral histories conducted by the Oral History Center, the methodology of the interviewers makes its way onto the record through the mention of tape recorders and other tools. 

One interviewee, George W. Waters, former editor of Pacific Horticulture, became curious about the tape while his interview was being conducted. While chatting about interviewing techniques, Waters asked about what would become of the tape after the interview was done, and the interviewer, Suzanne Riess, replied “You can ask that the tape be destroyed, if you really wish.” This remark seemed to surprise Waters, and he replied, “Well, I appreciate the fact that somebody else has accepted the job of transcribing it. No, there are advantages and disadvantages [to using the tape recorder], and well, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. It’s so rare, isn’t it, that one gets an opportunity to talk about himself to someone who’s actually interested in staying?”

Robert Harlan
Robert Harlan. Photo courtesy the UC Berkeley School of Information.

Sometimes, however, the presence of a tape recorder could create an awkward barrier between the interviewer and interviewee. Robert D. Harlan, professor of the UC Berkeley School of Librarianship (later the UC Berkeley School of Information), who also conducted oral history interviews for the Oral History Center (then the Regional Oral History Office), was asked about his experience in his own oral history. Harlan reflects that “Having been both the interviewer and the interviewee, it’s easier to be the interviewee, I think. It’s more reactive. You know, I don’t have to change the tapes and that sort of thing. [laughter]” At the same time, he recalls that one of his interviewees had difficulty in opening up because “he found the process intimidating, sticking this thing [tape recorder] in front of him, so I had to work at it. And well, you’re certainly aware of this. It can be a problem. I wish he’d been a little more forthcoming.”

Even if they sometimes initially hindered the flow of conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee, tape recorders and more modern recording devices are invaluable to the creation of oral histories. They allow for relaxed conversations that can be transcribed at a later date by someone who wasn’t present at the original interview. Recording devices and the transcripts that are produced are more accurate than one’s memory and shorthand notes as well. 

More than anything, these recording devices allow us to do what we’ve always done: pass down stories of one generation to the next. Alexander Paul Albov, a Russian emigré to California and professor emeritus of the Defense Language Institute, explains his own view on the evolution of storytelling to oral history in our modern era. “Some people say that old men like only to talk about the past. Which is probably true. There is a reason for that. As a matter of fact the more I talk about that statement I am convinced that it is probably a biologically inherited ability and function needed by the human species,” said Albov. “It is easy to say now that I can narrate the story of my life on a tape recorder before writing these memoirs down, but for millennia it was impossible and everything hinged upon the spoken word, and all traditions and all the knowledge gradually accumulated by humanity depended upon this knowledge. Can you imagine what would happen if old people did not talk about that? There would be no growth of civilization? Nothing would be left….I think it is a wonderful thing that old people have the ability and urge to tell about their past. And that is what I am doing now; telling the stories of my past which contain some stories passed to me by my father.

Find these interviews and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. You can search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

Serena Ingalls is a fourth year student in History and French at the University of California, Berkeley. She works at the Oral History Center as a research and editorial assistant.

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

For sources related to athletics, see the Oral History Center’s project, Athletics at UC Berkeley. The Bancroft Library also holds several books written by Glenn Dickey, including Glenn Dickey’s 49ers : the rise, fall, and rebirth of the NFL’s greatest dynasty ; Bancroft (NRLF) ; GV956.S3 D518 2000.

For sources related to Dreyer’s ice cream, see the Oral History Center’s projects, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream; Food and Agriculture — Individual Interviews; and Commerce, Industry, and Labor — Individual Interviews. See also: Dreyers: history in the making. Bancroft Pamphlet Folio ; pf HD9281.U54 D7 1997.

For sources related to horticulture, see the Oral History Center’s project, Natural Resources, Land Use and Environment — Individual Interviews. See also: California’s horticultural statutes with court decisions and legal opinions relating thereto, also county ordinances relating to horticulture and list of state and county horticultural officers corrected to March 1, 1908. Bancroft ; F862.21.C2.1908. Read the Oral History Center article, “U.S. Forest Service, California Water History, and Horticulturalists in the Natural Resources, Land Use, and Environment Oral History Project,” by Ricky J. Noel.

For sources related to University History, see the Oral History Center project, Education and University of California — Individual Interviews. See also: Robert D. Harlan papers, 1947-2000. BANC MSS 2003/225 c.

For sources related to Russian emigrés in California, from the search feature on our home page, type in “Russian emigré” to see a list of oral histories. See also: Peter P. Balakshin papers, 1929-1989. Purchase; From Globus Bookstore, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, for the Russian Emigre Project; March 1986. BANC MSS 86/141 c.

About the Oral History Center 

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Highlights from the Natural Resources, Land Use, and Environment Oral History Project

By Ricky J. Noel

U.S. Forest Service, California Water History, and Horticulturalists in the Natural Resources, Land Use, and Environment Oral History Project

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center has a large collection of oral histories documenting the history of natural resources, land use and the environment within California and worldwide. The oral histories in the subject area record the experiences and reflections of individuals who have participated in some of the most impactful organizations within this field, such as the United States Forest Service, the East Bay Regional Park District. Additionally, this collection contains interviews detailing the history of the California wine industry, California water wars, forestry, and horticulture within the United States and abroad. 


A glade with a wooden walkway in the foreground and stone retaining walls in the background, with a man standing in the middle of the frame, looking toward the ground.
Botanical garden, with Everett Stanford. 1952. Fritz, Emanuel, Photographer. Fritz-Metcalf Photograph Collection. Bioscience, Natural Resources & Public Health Library.

One of the highlights in this expansive and broad collection includes several interviews with individuals from the early days of the United States Forest Service. The interviews detailing the history of forestry could be very useful to someone who wants to trace the evolution of the forestry industry. In addition, if one is working on something involving University of California history or the history of the U.S. Forest Service, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century, these interviews, among the many others present in the collection, would be an invaluable resource for that research.

My personal recommendations for this area would be an interview with Emanuel Fritz, who was a very early practitioner of the forestry field in the United States. He attended Yale School of Forestry and eventually made his way to the University of California in the 1920s, where he became involved with redwoods and assisted the U.S. Forest Service with their second-growth investigation along with other projects of that nature. He also discusses his political experience, particularly his involvement with the California Forest Practice Act of 1945 and his work as a consultant for the Legislative Forest Study Committee in 1944. Another recommendation would be our interview with Edward Kotok who was a researcher for the U.S. Forest Service as well as the assistant chief in charge of state and private forestry work. Some of the highlights of his interview involve him discussing his role as the assistant chief, relationships with Congress, ties between American and European forestry, arguing against the transfer of the U.S. Forest Service to the Department of the Interior, and helping to keep forestry at UC Berkeley. 


Harvey Banks stands near Governor Brown, who has a shovel. Both are wearing suits and standing amidst shrubs, with a valley and hill in the background.
Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown tossed the traditional first shovel of dirt during the 1959 groundbreaking ceremony for the Whale Rock Dam Project – the first major dam constructed and designed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Director Harvey O. Banks (left) joined him for the event. Photo: DWR

Another incredibly useful and relevant resource in this collection has to do with the history of the struggle over California’s water. Anyone interested or researching the history of California, the impact of the Los Angeles Aqueduct on the Lone Pine region, the California Water Project, irrigation, the United States government’s involvement with water in California and the evolution of the California Water Wars would do well to check out some of these interviews in this collection. Some of the ones I find most interesting and useful would be an interview with Frank Adams, a irrigation specialist who was the author of Bulletin 21, Irrigation Districts in California but also was part of the investigations into the irrigation of California from 1910 to 1924 and was involved in the redrafting of the Soil Conservation Act and the Central Valley Project. In regards to the California Water Project (1955–1961) there is an interview with a key developer of the project, Harvey O. Banks, who reflects on the development and financing of this endeavor, as well as his term as director of the California Division of Water Resources and his work on water-related legislation, such as the Davis-Grunsky, Burns-Porter and San Luis acts. 


Gerda Isenberg coming out of a doorway of a small wooden building. There’s a sign that says “office,” and plants in pots along the side of the building.
Gerda Isenberg at the Yerba Buena Nursery. Photo: Yerba Buena Nursery

A unique aspect of this collection involves the interviews with horticulturalists. While these interviews might at first glance seem a bit niche in their focus, they offer valuable insights into small businesses in California, horticulture in California in the mid century, California regional history, and the development of plant societies such as the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens. Interviews that stand out to me in this collection include Edward Carman who ran Ed and Jean Carman’s nursery beginning in 1946 and was an active member of the Los Gatos community, Wayne Roderick, a senior nurseryman for the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden from 1960 to 1976 and Gerda Isenberg, a humanitarian and owner of the Yerba Buena Nursery. 

These interviews are among the many that are excellent resources for researchers looking to understand more about the environment, particularly the environment in its relation to conservation groups, water, and education. The Oral History Center’s Natural Resources, Land Use and the Environment – Individual Interviews  is a collection of roughly a hundred interviews ranging from oral histories regarding the Sierra Club, United States Forest Service, California Wine Production, California Water Rights and the East Bay Regional Parks District, among many other unique, insightful personal commentaries that give insight into some of the most important aspects of the environment in the United States and abroad.

Find these interviews and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. You can search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. 

Ricky J. Noel is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, with a major in history with a Latin American concentration. During his time at Berkeley, Ricky worked with the Oral History Center as an editorial assistant. 

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

Newton Bishop Drury and the Legacy of the Save the Redwoods League” by Deborah Qu.

Gerda Isenberg papers, 1931-1990. Consists of correspondence, writings, speeches, reports, interviews, subject files, clippings, a scrapbook, photographs and ephemera. BANC MSS 94/210 c.

Harvey O. Banks. Federal-state relations and the California water plan. Bancroft ; 1956?? ; F862.25.I49.

Emanuel Fritz papers, circa 1900-1988. BANC MSS C-B 728. 

Forestry photographs from the Emanuel Fritz papers. BANC PIC 1987.057–PIC.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Hon. Kevin Murray: California State Assembly (1994-1998) and California State Senate (1998-2006), oral history release

New oral history: Hon. Kevin Murray

Video clip from Kevin Murray’s oral history about his political role models and becoming more a legislator than a politician:

Black and white photograph of Senator Kevin Murray wearing a suit and tie
Hon. Kevin Murray in the early 2000s as a member of the California Senate


Kevin Murray represented regions of Los Angeles as a member of the Democratic party in the California State Assembly (1994-1998) and in the California State Senate (1998-2006), until he retired due to term limits. Murray and I recorded over five hours of interviews about his life and career in May 2021 as part of the Oral History Center‘s contributions to the California State Government Oral History Program. Murray’s oral history reveals ways he capitalized on opportunities as they arose throughout his life. In the process, he became an influential leader in the California Legislature, including as chair of the state’s Democratic Caucus and the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Many of Kevin Murray’s life stories reflect a kind of American dream narrative for Black middle-class families in Los Angeles. Murray was born in the spring of 1960 in the westside community of View Park, where he still lives and now raises his own family. Both of Murray’s parents graduated from college, and around the time of his birth, Murray’s father transitioned from work as an aerospace engineer to working in Los Angeles city politics and eventually in state politics. Around that time, their View Park neighborhood experienced white flight, which according to Murray resulted with an influx of middle and upper-middle class Black families of doctors, lawyers, dentists, and political figures who became his role models. At his parents’ insistence, Murray attended elite Los Angeles middle and high schools. During college, while earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from California State University, Northridge, Murray began booking music and entertainment acts on campus. After graduating in 1981, Murray’s college entertainment experiences led to him start work in the infamous mail room at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills. While working at William Morris, Murray earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University in 1983, and in 1987, he earned a Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School. Prior to his political career, Murray provided consulting and management services to artists in the entertainment industry while also practicing law in the areas of entertainment, real estate, insurance, and dependency.

Due to his father’s work in L.A. politics, Murray recalled as a child attending barbecues and breakfasts at the homes of legends in California politics like Big Daddy Jesse Unruh and Black political leaders like Mervyn Dymally, Julian Dixon, and Tom Bradley. From his young exposure to powerful politicians, Murray learned they were simply people, not intimidating icons. Eventually, Murray came to believe, rightfully, that he, too, could become a political leader. When an opportunity to run for the California Assembly arose in the early 1990s, Murray seized that chance and won his first election to the California Assembly in 1994. His father was, by then, also serving in the Assembly, which made them the first-ever California Assemblymembers to serve as father and son.

Video clip from Kevin Murray’s oral history about California’s North-South power politics:

Murray described himself as more of a legislator than a politician. In the Assembly, Murray worked with Speaker Willie Brown and quickly became a leader who, over the next twelve years, served in both the California Assembly and Senate. Murray was elected as a Democratic member of the California State Assembly from the 47th District in Los Angeles from 1994-1998, where served as Chair of the Transportation Committee. In the California State Senate from 1998 to 2006, Murray represented the 26th District based in Culver City, California, and served as chair of the influential Appropriations Committee, the Transportation Committee, the Democratic Caucus, and the California Legislative Black Caucus. Murray also served on the California Film Commission.

Most of Murray’s oral history explored his years of political work in Sacramento where he passed numerous bills, including one of the nation’s first laws on identity theft (AB 157, the Consumer Protection: Identity Theft Act); bills on “Driving while Black”; education bills to address the digital divide and ensure California students had access to the internet (then called “the information superhighway”); bills protecting victims of domestic violence; a bill protecting houses of worship from hate crimes; and many others, including a bill eventually vetoed by Governor Pete Wilson that would have enabled Californians to register to vote online, to sign a petition online, and to vote via the internet as early as 1997.

While Murray’s oral history details his legislative efforts, he also reflected broadly on a variety of topics, including key differences between the California Assembly and Senate; on influential committee assignments; on intra-caucus relationships between the Black Caucus, Latino Caucus, API Caucus, and the Women’s Caucus; on North-South power politics in California; on his distaste for term limits and the importance of legislative staff; and on his political role models. Murray concluded his oral history with brief a discussion of his post-legislative life in Los Angeles with his wife and their two children, including reflections on the 2008 election of Barack Obama and the Black Lives Matter marches of 2020.

Video clip from Kevin Murray’s oral history about intra-caucus relationships in the California Legislature:

About the California State Government Oral History Program

Kevin Murray’s oral history was conducted in collaboration with of the California State Government Oral History Program, which was created in 1985 with the passage of AB 2105. Charged with preserving the state’s executive and legislative history, this state Program conducts oral history interviews with individuals who played significant roles in California state government, including members of the legislature and constitutional officers, agency and department heads, and others involved in shaping public policy. The State Archives oversees and directs the Program’s operation, with interviewees selected by an advisory council and the interviews conducted by university-based oral history programs. Over the decades, this collective effort has resulted in hundreds of oral history interviews that document the history of the state’s executive and legislative branches, and enhance our understanding of public policy in California. The recordings and finished transcripts of these interviews are housed at the State Archives. Additionally, Kevin Murray’s oral history is available online in the Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

Video clip from Kevin Murray’s oral history about California Senate and Assembly differences and good committees:

Video clip from Kevin Murray’s oral history about term limits for California legislators and the role of legislative staff:

Hon. Kevin Murray, “Kevin Murray: Member of the California State Senate from the 26th District, 1998–2006.” California State Government Oral History Program. Conducted by Roger Eardley-Pryor in 2021, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2022.

Sara Bard Field: The Making of an Early Suffragist

By Shannon White

Sara Bard Field, born in 1882 to a strict orthodox Christian family, was a poet and prominent early member of the suffragist movement. A series of interviews with Field, conducted by the UC Berkeley Oral History Center in the late 1950s through the early 1960s—barely a decade before her death in 1974—reveals a woman of striking political acuity and deep concern about the world’s inequities. In her oral history, Sara Bard Field (Wood): Poet and Suffragist, Field recounts her storied life: from a childhood stifled by her father’s overbearing presence, to disillusionment with orthodox religion in her adult life, to a growing interest in local politics that eventually culminated in her involvement with suffragist activism at a national scale.  

“I kept saying to myself again and again, until women get the vote they’re not going to be much of a power in society.” 

Sara Bard Field
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. [ca. 1915] Title: Mrs. Sara Bard Field, of San Francisco, is one of the most eloquent and gifted speakers of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman’s Party. She is a kinswoman of Eugene Field, the well known poet. Collection: Records of the National Woman’s Party. (Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C., Photographer)
Field spent much of her early adult life abroad; she was married in her late teens to her first husband, Reverend Albert Ehrgott—a relationship with an almost twenty-year age gap—and accompanied him on his ministry work overseas. Upon returning to the US, Field became involved in local politics in Cleveland, Ohio before assisting with several national suffrage campaigns and joining the National Women’s Party. Following a move to Portland, Oregon, Field became acquainted with lawyer and political activist Charles Erskine Scott Wood; the two later married and lived together on their estate “The Cats” in Los Gatos, California. 

Field speaks frequently of her interest in the arts, a fascination which began at a very young age. “My mother tells of me at four,” she says, “of hearing me improvise as I sang my baby brother to sleep. I’d begin with a song that was known and that had been taught to me, then I would start improvising.” In her later years, Field published several poems and poetry collections, evidence of a lifelong passion for poetry which began in childhood with, if not “a knowledge of its beauty, at least a sense of the beauty” that poetic writing conveys. 

Aside from her longstanding interest in writing, Field remained invested in politics and social issues. Field’s later activism was informed in part by her travels in India and elsewhere with Albert Ehrgott, where she developed insights about social inequity and what she referred to as the “almost frightening sense of the inadequacy of the capitalist system.” 

According to Field, “hard as it was, I feel it was one of the great, at least if not turning points. . . in my thinking, it was a curse on my mind to think about social conditions in the world, because for the first time in my life I saw starving people mingling in the crowd.” She recalls feeling a sense of inherent wrongness at witnessing the mass exportation of food and other goods from India while the country’s colonial administration remained “indifferent to people who were starving in a land in which they lived and were exploiting.”

At the same time, Field was also wrestling with the dissolution of her steadfast relationship with faith. Field describes her dissatisfaction with the widespread practice of conversion in predominantly Buddhist countries and the idea that people “had to become Christian to be good. They were already good.”

These experiences formed the foundation for Field’s further involvement with women’s suffrage campaigns in the US and prepared her for activism at the national scale, first as a state campaign organizer in Oregon and later as a country-wide spokesperson for the National Women’s Party. Thinking back to the origins of the suffrage movement and lack of support initially available to the movement’s members, Field offers her perspective on the early days of the fight for suffrage:

I want to say again, you who are young and have been born into a time when women are in politics, when they have the power of the vote, I think you can’t realize what an obstacle it was to women, not only to action but to learn more, because they didn’t have any reason, as it were, or any field to exercise their interest, and this I kept saying to myself again and again, until women get the vote they’re not going to be much of a power in society.

When discussing the motives behind her decision to join the suffrage movement, Field recollects her own childhood, which was marred by shame and the extreme lack of clarity surrounding women’s roles that defined her family life. She recalls learning from her own experiences as a young, naive minister’s wife and advocating for educating young women about the world. Speaking specifically about marriage and the expectations it entails—children, sex, and the responsibilities of a spouse—Field expresses her wish that young women not struggle the same way she did as a result of a lack of knowledge:

I told women that in the course of my days, young as I was. “They should be told,” I said, “and they should be told thoroughly and not given any impression that you are afraid of telling them because then they’ll get it mixed in crazy ideas and they’ll learn it from sources they shouldn’t learn it from.”

She remembers in particular an interaction with a woman whom she met in Huronia Beach as a young adult, whose name she cannot remember but whose words stuck with her and helped inform her perspective on liberation. Says Field, “Here was a woman who was a person in her own right regardless of anybody else and that’s what she wanted everybody else to be, of course. I remember she said to me that day—she talked to me about my fear of my father. She said, ‘You know, you can’t imagine how bad it is for a person to feel that anybody else could hurt them inside. Your father can’t hurt you inside. You’re a person.’”

“I think few young people in their lives, especially a girl who had wanted to go to college and didn’t get to college, have such a chance for awakening experiences outside of books, outside of the academic world.”

Field’s insights illuminate the reality of many suffrage activists, who often struggled to establish a balance between devoting themselves fully to a cause while at the same time meeting the requirements of personal and family life. Reflecting on the commitments required by the movement, Field notes the expectation of “utter impersonality when there is a work greater than ourselves to be done,” something that requires “much sacrifice and effort.”

Sara Bard Field’s oral history is long—the final publication numbers just under 700 pages—and provides an incredible amount of insight into the life of an intelligent and politically active woman in a time that was not always welcoming to Field and her contemporaries. In her own words, “I think few young people in their lives, especially a girl who had wanted to go to college and didn’t get to college, have such a chance for awakening experiences outside of books, outside of the academic world.”

Field’s testimony is full of observations about the social and political reality of the world in the early twentieth century. She details the record of her travels in Southeast Asia and later across the US as a suffrage activist, preserving a wealth of information useful for historians and curious readers alike. 

Shannon White in front of trees
Shannon White

You can find the interview mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

Shannon White is currently a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley studying Ancient Greek and Latin. They are an undergraduate research apprentice in the Nemea Center under Professor Kim Shelton and a member of the editing staff for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics. Shannon works as an editorial assistant for the Oral History Center.

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

This interview is part of the Suffragists Oral History Project. For interested parties, these interviews also tie in quite nicely with several other projects in the Oral History Center’s collection, including the Women Political Leaders oral histories and the Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project. Many of the interviews from these projects coincide in time, presenting detailed and intimate accounts of women’s careers and lives during the twentieth century. My article “Voices of a Movement: The Oral History Center’s Suffragists Oral History Project” offers an overview of several narrators involved in the Suffragists Oral History Project, including Sara Bard Field. In addition, The Berkeley Remix podcast has a season dedicated to women in politics, and Episode 1, “Gaining the Vote,” makes use of several oral histories from the Suffragists project.

The Bancroft Library contains several collections of material from Sara Bard Field and Charles Erskine Scott Wood, including photographs, personal papers, speeches, and published writing. Here are some:

Sara Bard Field papers, 1927–1956 (BANC MSS 79/46 c)

The Speech of Sara Bard Field, presented to Congress on behalf of the women of the nation, 1921. p JK1896 .F5

Charles Erskine Scott Wood papers, 1914–1942 (BANC MSS C-H 106)

The Pale Woman by Sara Bard Field. Bancroft (NRLF) ; x F855.2 .F436 1927 Copy 2

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library preserves voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. You can find our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. Sign up for our monthly newsletter  featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page or go straight to our blog home.

“Why Should We Share Anything with Them?!” – Oral History, Truth, and Ethics in Post-Totalitarian Societies

Interview room at Marienborn, the border of the former German Democratic Republic. Two chairs, a desk, and typewriter, now part of a museum exhibit.
Interview room at Marienborn, a border crossing of the former German Democratic Republic. Photograph by Erich Honecker, 2009


“It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.” This quotation is part of a description of what we at the Oral History Center do. It sits at the beginning of every oral history we publish. It was written by Willa Baum, the longtime director of the Regional Oral History Office (the former name of the OHC until 2015). It highlights quite beautifully the conceptual foundation of modern oral history: the deliberate exploration of the unique, subjective historical truths of individuals. While oral history was once considered a poor evidentiary cousin to official records stored in archives, academic oral historians from the 1960s on proclaimed proudly the value of subjective evidence. It was the subjectivity itself that was to be recorded and studied. At the same time, oral historians promised to expand the archive by interviewing people whose views had not been recorded in archives or studied by historians. So, there are two related ideas: oral history as a practice of inclusion that diversifies and enriches the archive, and a belief that the historical record can be made more accurate, more true, by conceiving of it as a living, evolving, contentious space in which there is little in the way of a settled, single consensus about what actually happened. “What actually happened” is a translation of a phrase coined by German historian Leopold Von Ranke, who regarded government documents as the apex of authoritative sources because he saw the 19th-century nation state as the prime mover of history. When I took historical methods courses ages ago, this phrase was trotted out by professors as a particularly primitive, dated, and possibly morally bankrupt form of reasoning. History is about power, the professors would argue, written by the winners, erasing the views and the experiences of the excluded. What mattered in modern historiography was making sure that different experiences and viewpoints were represented in the historical record, and in the interpretations of the historical record.

Recognizing that history is about power, oral historians evolved practices for sharing authority with interviewees, whom we in the field refer to as “narrators” to highlight their authority as originators of a narrative, as opposed to passive sources for an interview. Sharing authority might involve planning an interview far in advance with the narrator, apportioning time to topics, putting up guardrails, and sharing the text of the transcript after the interview to permit them to reflect on their own words and correct them if necessary, or to protect themselves or others from anticipated harm. I call this process the construction of the “deliberate self.” With all the pressure and stimulation of undergoing a recorded interview in real time, even the most seasoned and trained speakers can, in a moment, misrepresent themselves, speak in a disorganized fashion, and mischaracterize what they remember. This is the spontaneous self. To be ethical, and above all trustworthy, interviewers should give narrators the opportunity to see themselves in their own words and refashion them to better represent themselves and the past for posterity. This works well if oral historians are already aligned more or less with their narrators with respect to what is known and how what is known is understood. This “shared authority,” to use oral historian Michael Frisch’s term, is part of what practitioners call the co-construction of oral history.

But what happens when a single, official narrative of state history is washed away by a revolution, and what remains is the collective trauma of decades of misinformation, surveillance, and punishment? How does one conduct interviews in this space? More importantly, how does one interpret what is said?

Over the past four years, I have conducted interviews with a group of Czech physicists. This project evolved into an exploration of how a scientific community functioned under a totalitarian order. The Czechoslovak Academy of Science and courageous scientists emerged as important spaces and agents that supported intellectual diversity and underground political activism. Scientific orientations and a certain form of asceticism underpinned political activism against dogma, propaganda, and the repression of fellow scientists and citizens. These interviews highlighted the contributions of scientists to the underground political movements established before the Velvet Revolution and to the democratic political order that followed.

Why was I doing this research? I study “scientists in trouble.” I am interested in the ways in which a scientist’s commitment to objective truth – a truth completely separate from the background, ideology, beliefs, and values of people – plays out in the messy political world in which scientists must live and operate. What happens when an individual scientist’s commitment to scientific truth clashes with powerful political forces? It could be the Iowa dairy industry during World War II or the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. In the latter case, what is the relationship between a scientist’s commitment to objective truth and the demands in a totalitarian society of an absolute commitment to dogma? In my conversations with these narrators, and with scholars and students in the Czech Republic, I was confronted by a different understanding of the value of oral history from what we have constructed in the United States and a few other countries.

Last fall, I conducted two workshops on oral history methods, for faculty and oral historians at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and for graduate students at Masaryk University in Brno. My primary motivation for doing this work was to use oral history to meet the challenges of a difficult past and of an increasingly difficult present, one in which state-sponsored versions of the truth pose grave threats to democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. I was also considering the value of oral testimony in the historical shadow of a police state, where many official records from the totalitarian period have now been destroyed. Finally, I wanted to share ideas about the role of trauma in these stories – the difficulty of telling stories that, to this day, are not supposed to be told in Czechia.

But it was when I came to lead the training in Brno for graduate students in a history department that I learned about the implications of a particular form of collective trauma for the practice of oral history with populations who lived under or in the shadow of totalitarianism. After I explained the involved process of co-construction of an oral history from beginning to end, the importance of sharing transcripts with narrators, for example, a hand went up. “My adviser told me not to share the transcripts with the narrators.” Why? Part of the project this student was undertaking was to interview former members of the Czechoslovakian secret police. I said to the class that transcripts should be shared with narrators if possible. The student replied, “Why should we share anything with them? We give them more consideration than they ever gave us!” I trotted out my explanation of the “deliberate self.” Another student spoke, “If you say something in court, it’s in the record forever. You can’t erase it.” Still another said, “If you give them the opportunity to see how they really look, they will cut everything of any historical value out, and we will have nothing!”

I took my time to respond. “This type of interviewing will work, exactly once. But when you break trust with narrators, the reputation of your process, and those of anyone else claiming to do oral history, for that matter, will be tarnished in direct proportion to the notoriety of the exposure of the narrators’ hidden stories.” (Full disclosure, I said this at the time much more awkwardly than what I wrote here, but I am asserting my prerogative to reconstruct my narrative.)

The discipline of oral history relies on multiple narratives to tell a composite, textured story of perspectives about how complex phenomena can be understood, and framed. It was oral historians from Italy, a nation with a comparably complex political history as Czechoslovakia’s, who helped shape the field of modern oral history. For Alessandro Portelli and Luisa Passerini, oral history was the analysis and interpretation of the complex interplay between memory and recorded history. Portelli studied collective memory and press reports about labor protests in Italy. He wrote about how narrators transposed the death of a protestor at the hands of the police to a different protest about a different cause that actually happened four years later. Passerini wrote about the deafening silence in the life histories of those who described a “before” and an “after” of the Italian fascist period.

With these kinds of approaches in mind, I offered some suggestions to the Czech students. If you are disturbed by what you perceive as false narratives, lies to whitewash the narrator’s complicity in an evil political order, you can do at least two things. You can interview those who suffered at the hands of the police, explore the consequences of surveillance and interrogation on families of the suspected and accused, and/or you could also serve as a trustworthy partner of narrators whose deeds and perspectives you find abhorrent, but in the process potentially produce a more candid text than might otherwise be obtained through spontaneous revelations in some kind of interview trap. Then, you could interpret the alignment and differences among those perspectives. Allowing these perspectives to talk to one another through your historical interpretation is one way to understand oral history work.

So, were these graduate students chastened and enlightened, having been brought up to date on the latest best practices in oral history from the United States via postwar Italy?

Not necessarily.

The modern oral history method, this careful co-construction of the story between interviewer and narrator, is in my opinion the best way to interview the survivors of trauma and to collect and archive their stories. It gives the narrators control, the absence of which is at the center of trauma, which offers the potential to be a salve for the wounds of the past.

I wonder, however, if there isn’t some kind of American exceptionalism, or Italian exceptionalism, to this version of oral history practice. The evolution of the discipline or practice of oral history is towards diversity and inclusion, both in terms of sources of narratives and the ways in which narratives may be cultivated, framed, archived, or disseminated. Truth is plural, and the plural truths stand in contrast to one another. It’s a model of history as mosaic, not a king’s chronicle. In fact, the value of oral truth is that it comes from a narrator, filtered by the narrator’s history, memory, background, and position in the world.

When I did my initial interviews for the Czech physics project, one thing that struck me was that, of all the books smuggled into Czechoslovakia, the most important to this group was the works of Karl Popper. Karl Popper is a philosopher, known in some sectors of the academy for his rigid definitions of the mechanisms of science and the nature of scientific truth. More recently, some historians have pointed to Popper’s right-of-center political commitments as evidence that a belief in positive knowledge independent of the knower – that is, a truth that is not a matter of perspective, of background, or of prior knowledge – is a tool and a smokescreen for right-wing hegemony.

And yet, the people’s struggle, in Czechoslovakia, the poet’s revolution of Vaclav Havel, was fought by people who took this definition of truth as their north star. It is not hard to understand why.

It is not just the narrator who is traumatized in the Czech Republic, and so many other places; it is an entire society. The source of the trauma is more than the narrator’s experience of a lack of control in their past; it is the fundamental interdiction of independent meaning-making that is the lifeblood of a totalitarian state. It was the insistence on a daily truth that brooked no examination, discussion, or independent verification that so scarred those who are trying to tell their stories in Czechia now. One of the critiques of social science and humanities research is that the instrument of knowing cannot really know itself. How can humans really know humans the way we measure the chemical composition of matter? But that kind of objective clarity is in a way what these young historians in Czechia want. The heat of this discussion came in part from the problem of interviewers interviewing other interviewers about their interviewing practices. Oral history practice evolved partly in response to the historic menace of the interview: the confession, the interrogation, the Inquisition, self-incrimination through recorded, and always in some way compelled, speech. The tables turned, the student viewed the formerly powerful as liars, now minimizing, erasing, or justifying their practices as police interrogators. Is historical truth here a salve or a weapon? Can it be both?

It is often said that testimony about trauma has been a path to healing. Witness the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in the 1990s (though the results of that process are still being evaluated). But what if a society is still very much stuck on the truth part? One of the students came up to me after the workshop and apologized. “I don’t think we as a society are ready yet for your high ethical standards.” There was not a hint of sarcasm in his statement, though maybe there should have been.

This encounter with post-Velvet Revolution graduate students in Czechia did not change my mind about current oral history best practice as I understand it. Making the narrator feel safe and in control is the best guarantor of their representation of themselves and what they experienced. But in our search for plural truths, we need to respect the fact that one person’s truth is often a claim to “capital T” truth, not a perspective or opinion, and that their participation in an oral history project can be part of their battle against obfuscation, propaganda, erasure, and lies. That goes for both the narrator and the interviewer. So we need to be careful when we consider the epistemology of oral history, and reflect on what objective truth means to many individuals and communities, as a matter of cultural and actual life and death. And we might further consider the extent to which our commitment to co-construction shapes both the archive and a historian’s interpretive freedom. If trust-as-alignment is paramount, how much room is there for skepticism, comparison, or independent evaluation? Fortunately, oral history is an evolving field, and it is through these encounters with meaning-making in different contexts that we stumble towards our provisional truth of what we think we know about ourselves and what we do, much as Karl Popper once claimed was the ideal practice of science.